I’ve been making this soup for a few years, and it’s honestly one of my favorite winter meals. It’s packed with flavor from fennel and a mix of vegetables. And it’s so hearty and satisfying from the pasta and beans.
I often end up tweaking it a bit each time I make it based on the ingredients I have on hand. That’s the beauty of soup. It’s such a versatile meal and so easy to make it your own.
The star of this soup is the fennel. Don’t tweak that ingredient whatever you do! If you’re not sure what fennel is, or what it looks like, it’s similar in flavor to anise (used in anisette liquor or some Italian cookies), and it looks like a giant onion bulb with green stems that have wispy green fronds at the ends. It’s the bulb you chop or slice very thin for the flavor. Don’t be afraid. Fennel has a delicious fresh flavor, and to me, it tastes like Italian sausage. Probably because it’s one of the primary spices used to flavor Italian sausage.
This soup calls for both a fennel bulb and some ground seeds. If you think that’s too much of a good thing, start with the bulb and taste it before you add the fennel seeds. But when it comes to fennel, I say the more the better.
I make this soup very often and I savor every delicious bite. It’s a little bit spicy, and the pasta, beans and chunks of ground turkey are so hearty and filling, in a really good and healthy way.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound ground turkey breast
- 3 medium carrots
- 2 stalks celery
- 1 medium onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 medium fennel bulb
- 2 to 3 large kale leaves
- 4 cups low-sodium tomato juice
- 4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
- 1 15-ounce can dark red kidney beans, rinsed
- 1½ teaspoons ground fennel seed
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper (more or less to taste)
- 2 cups small pasta shells, uncooked
- ¼ cup packed fresh basil leaves, chopped
- 1 teaspoon (or to taste) kosher or sea salt
- Optional garnish: shredded Parmesan cheese
Heat oil in a stock pot over medium heat and add the turkey breast. Stir to break up the turkey into small pieces and cook through.
While the turkey is cooking, place the carrots, onions, garlic, fennel bulb and kale in batches into a food processor, and pulse until they are chopped into small, bite-size pieces.
Add the chopped vegetables to the stock pot with the turkey and cook for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Add tomato juice, chicken stock, kidney beans, fennel seed and crushed red pepper to the pot.
Bring the soup to a boil and add the pasta. Reduce the heat, cover and let it simmer for about 20 minutes until the pasta is al dente. Stir in the chopped basil. Taste and season with salt as needed. Serve with passed Parmesan cheese if desired.
Any leftover soup can be stored covered in the refrigerator for up to three to four days. The soup may thicken up after refrigerated, so if it’s too thick, add a cup of water or chicken stock to the desired consistency.